What’s next for search engines?

Each day, around the world, millions of people log into onlysearch engines to, well, search for study. The other day I logged into a search engine and typed, just for the heck of it, the words “pudgy dogs”. And, voila, I got scores of hits.

Now, what next for search engines, in the age of social networking? I spoke to Rod Brachman, vice president, worldwide research operations at Yahoo! Research.

Dr Brachman has been, as they say, around the block. He was earlier director of the information processing technology office at the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is considered an authority on artificial intelligence.

I asked him where online search was headed. “Search engine companies are now beginning to look at social networks. At Yahoo!, we have started doing some research on how social networks work. Frankly, social networks, though popular, are quite crude in their technology,” he said.

What’s Yahoo! area of focus in this? “We don’t yet understand how online social groups work. We are trying to understand this to ensure that the networks are secure and predators do not get into the networks,” he said. Yahoo! has hired sociologists and psychologists to work with the computer nerds to develop such predictive technology.

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